It just so happened that most of the diversity picks on the nominated easy readers for The Cybils made the shortlist. I personally was a champion of Don’t Throw It to Mo! by David Adler which also won the Geisel Award.
My fellow judges were mostly librarians and they needed something fresh to get excited about. I can relate; I think an award like The Cybils is helpful to highlight new authors rather than award a long-running and popular series like Elephant and Piggie. In fact, the popularity of Elephant and Piggie spawned many knock-offs which starts to become tiresome as well. And, my final gripe is that there is only so much rhyming you can pull off with fox/box, yet there were more books than you’d expect with this rhyming scheme.
The upshot is that new Easy Readers seem to be a pretty closed off group: books are either popular series that seem to spawn endless books, imitators of these popular series, or rhyming sequences involving “fox” and “box.” While most of the selections below fit into those three categories, they are the best of the pile and there are also a few that refreshingly don’t.
How about you? Are there any Easy Readers that you don’t mind reading over and over again? Please share! Thank you!
Great Easy Readers
See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
It’s not easy to write an easy reader given the limitations of using only simple words. See the Cat combines creativity with silly humor in this engaging book with three short stories. [easy reader, ages 6 and up]
Ling & Ting: Twice as Silly by Grace Lin
“This book uses simple words, repetition, and picture clues to help beginning readers. But it is not boring. The silliness and fun little twists at the end will leave readers smiling, over and above the sense of accomplishment they will gain from reading these on their own.” from Cybils
I love this series and it just seems to get better and better. The short stories are original and funny. To me, this is pitch-perfect as a new classic that reminds me of the Little Bear series. Ling and Ting: Twice as Silly won the Easy Reader Cybil award. [easy reader level 3, ages 6 and up]
Don’t Throw it to Mo! by David A. Adler, illustrated by Sam Ricks
Mo Jackson loves football and he just so happens to be African American. He’s the smallest one on his football team but that’s because he’s the youngest. Coach Steve keeps him mostly on the bench with him but he’s training Mo to be their secret weapon. Mo practices catching a football that buttered. When a big play in need, no one expects Mo to be able to catch the ball, but he does! 5/5 [easy reader level 2, ages 6 and up]
Sophia Martinez: Picture Perfect by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Kim Smith
This is the kind of diversity book that I want to see more of! I like the Spanish words sprinkled throughout the book with a glossary in the back for those who need a translation. Sophia’s desire to stand out alongside her two sisters is pitch-perfect for this age group. Her family is portrayed as any other middle-class American family who just so happens to be Hispanic American though there is a strong sense of family that ties back subtly to Latino culture. This is a great way to introduce Spanish to readers who might also have been fans of Dora the Explorer and Go! Diego Go! [easy reader, ages 6 and up]
National Geographic Kids: Rosa Parks by Kitson Jaznyka
I was impressed with this easy reader that dispels commonly held beliefs about Rosa Park and includes interesting details that most kids would not know such as Rosa Parks was part Native American. It should be in every classroom library, especially in grade 4th where kids learn about the Civil Rights Movement. The format of the book also prepares kids for standardized testing like PARCC since there are captions under the photos with unique information. [easy reader level 2, ages 5 and up]
In! Over! And On! (The Farm) by Ethan Long
With very few words, Ethan Long manages to tell three stories with characters whose personalities shine as strongly as Elephant and Piggie. Each story has a punch line that will delight the littles. Could it be that Mo Willems finally has a little competition? I love the thick pages, the lift the flaps, and the bright and engaging cartoon-like illustrations. [easy reader, ages 3 and up]
A Pig, A Fox, and a Box by Jonathan Fenske
With very few words, Fenske tells a fun rhyming story that will make kids laugh. Fenske still manages to find a new take on the Fox/Box rhymes. I like how the 3 short stories tie up in the end. [easy reader level 2, ages 6 and up]
Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea
These two friends could be best friends with Elephant and Piggie! Ballet Cat and Sparkles the Pony have the same “opposites attract” high energy and witty repartee. I also like how there aren’t white backgrounds on the page. Instead, it’s like the characters were drawn onto colored construction paper. One character is “chalked” in while the other is the background color which makes the illustrations bright and appealing.
These two friends try to decide what to play today. Usually, they end up playing ballet, but Sparkles has a secret. Ballet is not his favorite thing to do. Ballet Cat has her own secret which will make Sparkles very happy. [easy reader, ages 6 and up]
Flop to the Top! by Eleanor Davis and Drew Weing
Parents will enjoy the subversive humor about our Reality Show-driven social media culture, but kids will find everything about Flop to the Top! appealing from the cartoon illustrations to the twist-of-fate original storyline. Bonus points for starring a girl of color. [easy reader level 3, ages 6 and up]
Humpty’s Fall: Urgency Emergency by Dosh Archer
Such a clever take on a well-known nursery rhyme! It will amuse adult readers as much as kids! I liked the story more than the illustrations which are a little too child-like as in “my kid could have drawn that” kind of way. [easy reader, ages 5 and up]
Mr. Putter and Tabby Turn the Page by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard
My kids are I are particularly partial to Mr. Putter and Tabby series. My 15-year-old still loves it and will read any of these lying around and sigh with good memories. Each adventure is pitch-perfect and this one is no different but I especially love the library and pet tie-in. [easy reader, ages 6 and up]
I Will Take a Nap! by Mo Willems
This Elephant and Piggie story has unexpected twists and turns, particularly for an Easy Reader yet it is still easy to follow. I also like little details of their friendship like how they each have stuffed animals in the likeness of their friend. Mo Willems pulls off a dream story that will delight young readers. [easy reader, ages 5 and up]
Waiting is Not Easy! by Mo Willems
I love all Elephant and Piggie books but I prefer the more complex plot in I Will Take A Nap! but I love how Mo Willems celebrates the wonder of the night sky with kids. [easy reader, ages 5 and up]
p.s. Related posts:
Easy Reader Book Lists
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.